Amputee model and face of He-Shi’s summer campaign, Bernadette Hagans, shares her thoughts on beauty, her cancer diagnosis, and career highs
Bernadette Hagans has been a force to be reckoned with since a cancer diagnosis at 22 resulted in her right leg being amputated. In the few years since, the Belfast-native has carved out a successful career as a model, charity campaigner, and actor.
From being the first Miss Northern Ireland finalist with a disability or physical difference, to being the focus of a BBC documentary charting her cancer journey, Bernadette has championed inclusivity in the beauty industry. Now, she is the face for He-Shi’s summer campaign: Self Tan for Every body. Here, Bernadette shares her thoughts on all thing’s beauty, self-care, her cancer diagnosis, and career highlights.
1. What do you like most about this campaign?
I love how inclusive everything in this campaign is. The He-Shi summer campaign shows real people, and it was so fun to be a part of it all. The girls are all so lovely, we made friends for life and we have some incredible memories and moments to look back on. We all had a lot of fun and felt great in the tan that we all love.
2. Can you share any tanning tips you have learned along the way to achieve that perfect, sunless glow?
I guess preparation is key for a long-lasting tan. He-Shi fades gradually over 10 days, so it is always worthwhile prepping well so it will last the distance. The He-Shi Tan Remover & Primer uses natural fruit AHAs to remove tan build-up without scrubbing your skin with rough abrasives. It also has aloe vera, so I know my skin is super hydrated and moisturised.
3. Since your cancer diagnosis, you have been a force to be reckoned with, forging a successful career as a model, actor, and charity campaigner. How do you remain positive in the midst of such a life-changing experience?
My life began when I had my leg amputated. I got the grim diagnosis that I had to have the surgery when I was just 22 and I decided at that moment to seize life. The cancer which took my leg ended up setting me free.
4. Can you share some of your career highlights to date?
Some of my career highlights include competing in Miss Northern Ireland 2021, being presented with the Diana Award, and having the opportunity to walk in London Fashion Week.
5, Who inspires you in the beauty industry and why?
Genuinely, my family, friends, and peers inspire me within the beauty industry. Seeing everyone of all ages, genders, shapes, and sizes being their own beautiful selves. I find that the most inspiring.
6. What are your thoughts on the beauty industry’s standards of inclusivity and diversity?
I think it has been a battle, and we have a long way to go to make sure it is an inclusive and diverse landscape. But looking back just five or six years ago, we have come so far in the industry. For example, seeing Sports Illustrated have an Asian plus-size cover model [is great].
At 25, when I won third place at the Miss World Northern Ireland 2021 pageant, I also received the Beauty With A Purpose Award. It was the first time a non-able-bodied person had received the award. I think we are making positive steps forward.
7. You dedicate a lot of your time to campaigning for children and young adults facing cancer diagnoses. What do you hope your campaigning might achieve?
I want to be able to reach other people going through similar things as I did, and use my experience to inspire and educate them to achieve anything they want, despite setbacks. I would also like to try to make services more available and accessible to everyone.
I’ve been working to help make some services available in the south of Ireland because there should be all-island [facilities]. I just want to use my experience to help and give advice to people going through cancer or amputations.
8. What is your idea of self-care?
Switching my phone off or putting it on ‘do not disturb’.
9. What is your golden rule when it comes to beauty?
My golden rule is to always own it, whatever ‘it’ is. Never feel embarrassed to do things or try new things. Be yourself and enjoy it.
10. What are your favourite He-Shi products?
For body, my go-to has the be the Rapid 1 Hour Mousse because I like that I can control the intensity of my tan. I can wash it off after one hour if I’m rushing for a last-minute catchup with friends. Or I can leave overnight for an ultra-dark tan. I also love the Overnight Hyaluronic Tan Balm. It’s basically great skincare with the added bonus of a tanned glow the next day.
Main image by Khara Pringle